A couple of childhood friends and I were discussing this song last NYE. Below is a completely over thought, insane analysis. I just found out this year that the song was actually inspired by true events. N
Lyrics numbered for analysis below.
- Met my old lover in the
The snow was falling Christmas Eve
I stole behind her in the
frozen foods And I touched her on the sleeve
- She didn't recognize the
face at first
But then her eyes flew
She went to hug me and she
spilled her purse
And we laughed until we cried.
- We took her groceries to the
The food was totalled up and
We stood there lost in our
As the conversation dragged.
- We went to have ourselves
a drink or two
But couldn't find an open bar
We bought a six-pack at
the liquor store
And we drank it in her car.
- We drank a toast to
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond
But neither one knew how.
- She said she'd married her
Who kept her warm and safe
She would have liked to say she
loved the man
But she didn't like to lie.
- I said the years had been a
friend to her
And that her eyes were still
But in those eyes I wasn't
sure if I saw
Doubt or gratitude.
- She said she saw me in the
And that I must be doing well
I said the audience was
But the traveling was hell.
- Chorus, but with eloquence
- The beer was empty and our
tongues were tired
And running out of things to say
She gave a kiss to me as I got out
And I watched her drive away.
- Just for a moment I was
back at school
And felt that old familiar pain
And as I turned to make
my way back home
The snow turned into rain –
- We will presume for this project that this is an event that happened to Dan Fogelberg as the narrator. So what is a fairly major musician for the time, doing in a grocery store on Christmas Eve?
- Is his old lover a high school sweetheart? Which would presume he's in his hometown (Peoris, Illinois)? Is she a lover from when he's getting started in his career so possibly a grocery in L.A.? Regardless, he's a reasonably successful musician, shopping in the frozen food section on Christmas Eve. Is this just to lend resonance to the dreary reality of snow turning to rain at the end, and the loneliness and isolation and illusion of success and fame? If he's in his hometown is he there caring for an ailing parent or family member (couldn't find out anything about his parents' health at this time in his life), thus the last minute Swanson Dinner run?
- i. Wouldn't it have to be Peoria due to the snow/rain situation? Does it occasionally snow in L.A.?
- Also the cutesy-ness of sneaking up on her proves it was a more innocent time, since someone snuck up on me in the grocery store the other day and almost got an elbow to the solar plexus.
- Dan was born in 1951. "Same Old Lang Syne" came out in 1980, when he was 29. There are several levels of analysis for this verse.
- So this chance meeting isn't happening to a couple of people in their 40s or 50s who haven't seen each other in 20 or more years. He references her as his 'lover' so we can assume they were bumping uglies back in the day. Even if they were high school sweethearts (getting an early start on' teh sex' since it would still be the early 60s), it's probably only been 12 years since they've seen each other. In a later verse she says she's seen him in the record stores but it not only takes her a minute to recognize him (which, okay I've had those weird out of context run ins myself) but her eyes flew open wide. I'm thinking ol' Dan here is looking pretty freaking rough based on her reaction.
- So she spills her purse and they laughed until they cried. Are they just standing there laughing and crying or did they at least crouch down to pick up her shit? What is in her purse that is so hysterical to cause this reaction? And if they did crouch down to pick stuff up, if they were laughing THAT hard wouldn't they fall over? Is everyone else in the store now convinced they're bombed? Are they in fact already half in the bag at this point? Maybe that accounts for her being slow on the uptake and him sneaking up on her.
- Did she have a cart or a basket? I'm just curious. I'm guessing cart since she didn't dump her basket with her purse. Also curious, is it a straight grocery belt or one of those circular ones? I've always thought those circular ones were fascinating for some reason. Anyhow.
- He apparently has just given up on whatever the hell was so important that he went to the grocery store on Christmas Eve in the first place. I think this reinforces my suspicion that they were both already a bit lit. Or maybe he was a bit stoned (thinking he's Harry Chapin) and had the munchies.
- Her stuff gets totaled up and bagged. Who paid? It doesn't mention anyone paying for the bagged groceries.
- This encounter appears to only have taken place over maybe 10 minutes at this point and the conversation is already dragging? And as we know from the next verse, they haven't even caught up on each other's' lives, they've just been busting a gut and crying near the frozen green beans or TV dinners.
- i. I can only think about the poor cashier, working Christmas Eve, watching this insanely awkward encounter unfold and thinking of all the shit he/she would rather be home doing. Then again he/she is probably looking forward to sharing the story of the awkward tipsy/drunk random looking hookup that seems to be taking place in line.
- What are they embarrassed about? The ridiculous scene they made in frozen food?
- The conversation is already dragging so they decide to go get a drink? Maybe their respective buzzes are wearing off.
- Now I'm back to wondering if this is L.A. or Peoria or somewhere else, because I can't imagine not being able to find an open bar, but being able to find an open grocery and a liquor store.
- i. How much did they drive around? Why not just go back to the grocery store if all you're getting is a six pack?
- ii. Did they take two cars? Did he even have a car with him?
- iii. Let's hope it's Peoria and that she didn't have a chance to buy anything in the frozen food section and few other perishables if they're just gonna hang in her car with the heat on. At least if they found a bar we could assume it's cold enough out with the snow that the food would keep as long as she forgot all about the frozen items.
- Seriously? They haven't seen each other in X number of years, he's a successful recording artist and she's apparently married to a probably well to do architect and they snag a six? I can see not buying wine because they'd need a corkscrew, but hell I'd think this would be a reasonable champagne moment
- i. Buying champagne would also be cute because they could pass the bottle and reminisce about their broke days in the past and how far they've come.
- ii. Plus it's Christmas Eve for Pete's sake, splurge a little!
- Again? Where's his car? What kind of car did she have? Just curious.
- Ahhhhh, the chorus. Let's take this line by line, shall we?
- We drank a toast to innocence: This reaffirms that these two were high school sweethearts and were getting an early start on their sexual activities.
- We drank a toast to now: Interesting… based on just the song, it doesn't seem like they've talked about their current lives at all by the chorus, so I'm guessing they're drinking to 'now' as their chance meeting. Because in the next verse their respective 'nows' seem pretty successful but bleak, lonely and sorta awful.
- We tried to reach beyond the emptiness, but neither one new how: Well, okay we've obviously been left out of some of the conversation to this point. Maybe it's just a supposition based on the cultural and political climate of the times. 1980 was a pretty freaking bleak time going through another major cultural shift in the country. Maybe they begin discussing their mutual emptiness at this point while trying to come up with things to toast and thus segue into the next verse.
- So we know she's married a relatively successful architect, who 'keeps' her warm and safe and dry. We'll presume she doesn't work, but we have no indication if she has children.
- I like Lisa's take that dry could also work in the sense that her husband doesn't let her drink.
- Based on the story I've been building here, I guess I've painted her in my head as a sort of "lady who lunches" and probably tries to fight off her emptiness and frustration with either Chablis with the girls or pills.
- i. I'm actually hoping that I'm right, or as Lisa pointed out on FB, if she lives in a dry household and had half the six pack as implied by the term 'split', she'd be in NO shape to drive home in the snow/rain/sleet this story is occurring during.
- Gal certainly has an interesting set of morals. She's not down with lying but she's totally cool with marrying a meal ticket she doesn't love. Niiiiiiiice.
- Seems Dan has no problem lying though. If the years had been such a friend to her at all of 29 or so and the best compliment he can come up with is that her eyes are still as blue? Dude, the ravages of aging are many and occasionally early, but eye color doesn't usually fade until way late in life, if ever.
- Doubt vs Gratitude: Both. Doubt, she knows you're lying, but she appreciates it. Sounds like she's looking pretty rough too and she knows it despite all the lunching, spas, treatments and trying to keep busy to ignore her 'warm, safe, dry' tedious and unfulfilling life.
- Holy Cats! This is getting depressing. These people are UNDER 30!!!! The 38 – 40 year olds at our reunion looked mostly awesome. What the hell was wrong with people in the late 70s early 80s? I'm kind of relieved this song didn't end in an overdose or a suicide pact.
- I love that I find her having 'seen him in the record stores and that he must be doing well' as a bit of a backhanded diss. It's like, oh yeah I've seen you in stores while shopping for stuff I listen to, but they don't play you on the radio stations I listen to. Or maybe that her stodgy husband insists on in their home, and then she's relieving her angst to the Stones while in the car.
- Nice little self-plug from Dan here: I suffer through all of the fame BS for my fans and my art.
- Chorus with refrain plus added line 'Reliving in our eloquence Another 'auld lang syne'...': We'll have to take his word for it that there was any eloquence going on here, but if we use the old writing directive of "show, don't tell"? No. But drunk people often think they are being very eloquent.
- I think ol' Dan left out some of what went on in that car because really? Their tongues were tired? They've been hanging out from the initial run in for what? 3 hours? Maaaaaybe? Do you think she really could have been gone longer than that on a Christmas Eve grocery run without Mike Brady back home having some serious questions? I've given hour long presentations that didn't leave my 'tongue tired'. I think we lost a verse about some strenuous tonsil hockey.
- Again, is his car there? Did they do the drive around looking for bars and liquor stores in her car and she brought him back to the grocery? Did he have a car? He's just gonna hang in the parking lot for Christmas Eve? I'm so confused.
- Again, what groceries did she get and how long have they been in the car?
- This is 1980, she can't just text Hubs and be like "Gonna B L8, PigglyWiggly is a madhouse". I hope they don't have kids at this point, I mean come on, it's Christmas Eve lady!
- I'm starting to imagine her and her husband as the couple next door from Christmas Vacation, only these two are yuppies before the word existed and they kind of hate each other and he doesn't care that she's gone missing on Christmas Eve. Hell, he probably called his mistress after she was gone for an hour.
- I think this is final evidence that they were high school sweethearts, possibly college (which would make it MORE shocking that it took so long and so much shock for her to recognize him, and I now think this is definitely taking place in Peoria).
- It seems sweet at first that for a moment he was 'back at school', and then takes another major downer as he felt 'that old familiar pain'. So even at school he was that used to pain? DOWNER!
- Huh, I seem to be right, he's just wandering around snowy/rainy Peoria on foot since he turns to make his way back home when the snow turns into rain.
- Merry Christmas Dan, here's another bitter reminder of your sucky, depressing life. Cheers!
Alright, ok, I jest! I truly do love this song, and almost all of Dan Fogelberg's songs. I love the 'story' songs of the late 70s/early 80s. I also love Lisa Gaffeny and Cristin Brieddy for leading me down this rabbit hole on New Year's Eve. What a freaking kick! Rest in peace Dan Fogleberg, I hope this would have amused you.